Around a third of adults reported a limiting longstanding health condition or illness. According to the 2017 Scottish Health survey, 29% of men and 34% of women in Scotland reported living with a limiting long-term condition. For people aged 75 and over, 56% had a limiting long-term condition. 1 in 5 Scots identify as disabled and more than a quarter of working age people acquire an impairment.
Coronavirus particularly affects those with a pre-existing medical condition. Some disabled people are more likely to experience severe ill-health from contracting Covid-19 than the general population, due to a higher incidence of pre-existing health conditions and poorer overall health within the disabled community.
Therefore, measures which limit the spread of coronavirus would be positive for individuals. It is important to note, however, that many disabled people do not have underlying health conditions that put them at a higher risk. Many of those people who are at very a high risk will not be disabled people, and a reduction in the spread of coronavirus would also benefit these people.
However, a requirement to self-isolate may exacerbate issues that some disabled people report already. Some disabled people may find it harder, or not be able to, leave their household to obtain basic necessities, may struggle to get an online delivery due to existing pressures and lower internet use, and/or may not have family and friends who can help.
7% of adults (aged 16+) with a limiting long-term condition reported having only one person or nobody that they could turn to for support in a crisis. This compares with 3% for those without a limiting long-term condition. In 2019, the proportion of recent UK internet users was lower for disabled adults (78%) compared with non-disabled adults (95%), and according to the 2018 Scottish Household Survey, 27% per cent of adults who have some form of long-standing physical or mental health condition or illness reported not using the internet, compared with 8% of those who do not have any such condition. As a result, a greater percentage of disabled people may not be able to order online.
To assist in the mitigation of any negative effects and to eliminate discrimination, existing measures are in place which may support disabled people who are self-isolating. The Scottish Government’s national helpline is designed for those who may be at risk and don’t have community support available, as well as those who cannot get online, putting them in touch with their local authority to access essential help. This measure may also have a positive effect in fostering good relations between people as helpline staff may have the opportunity to understand more about the difficulties faced by disabled people.
The Scottish Government’s Covid-19 guidance for those who are vulnerable or need additional support provides additional information. Ready Scotland’s additional support page also provides links to information for disabled people, linking people to Disability Information Scotland.
For certain groups who rely on talking to neighbours as a form of social contact, being asked to stay at home and avoid face-to-face contact may be particularly hard. Disabled people were more likely than the general population aged 16+ to say they regularly stop and talk with people in the neighbourhood (64.6% vs 62.2%). This was especially true for disabled people aged 70+ (74.8%). People living with a long-term physical or mental health condition are more than twice as likely to experience feelings of loneliness within the last week compared to those without (34% compared with 16%).
To assist in the mitigation of any negative effects and to eliminate discrimination, the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 guidance provides links to information on health and wellbeing, including for individuals feeling anxious or depressed. The Ready Scotland additional support page also provides links to support and guidance for anyone struggling with their mental health and well-being.
Provisions in the Regulations allow individuals to leave their household to seek medical assistance; to access public services (including social services or victims’ services) where access to the service is critical to the person’s well-being, and the service cannot be provided if the person remains at their accommodation; and to avoid injury, illness or to escape a risk of harm. These provisions may help to lessen any potential negative impacts on disabled people.
According to the Scottish Commission for Learning Disability (SCLD), in 2019 there were 23,584 adults with learning disabilities known to local authorities across Scotland. This equates to 5.2 people with learning disabilities per 1000 people in the general population. The requirement to self-isolate for 14 days may have a particular impact on those with learning disabilities. SCLD refer to how people with learning/intellectual disabilities are experiencing increased loneliness and social isolation during this time, and these feelings are likely to be more pronounced for
people with learning/intellectual disabilities. A period of self-isolation may therefore exacerbate existing feelings of loneliness and social isolation.
To assist in the mitigation of any negative effects and to eliminate discrimination, Ready Scotland’s additional support page provides a link to information on coronavirus as well as resources and support for those with learning disabilities or their carers. During any self-isolation period for an individual, a visitor providing essential care is allowed to visit. The above provisions in the Regulations, such as the ability to seek medical assistance, access public services and to avoid injury, illness and harm, may also help to reduce any impacts.
Some disabled people may have specific needs in relation to communication.
During this impact assessment process, the importance of accessible communication was highlighted, and this was also something that was raised by a range of Disabled People’s Organisations. As a result, we have translated the public health checks at borders guidance into Easy Read.
The national helpline, referred to in the Scottish Government guidance, supports people who do not have other community or family support available by joining them up with local services. There is a textphone number available and we have added into our guidance that deaf and deafblind BSL users can contact the national helpline number via contactScotland-BSL, a Scottish Government service that connects deaf BSL users throughout Scotland through an online BSL interpreting video relay service (VRS).
Summary: Measures that help limit the spread of coronavirus may particularly positively affect those with underlying health conditions (and some disabled people are more likely to experience severe ill-health from contracting Covid-19 than the general population), protecting their health and helping to advance equality of opportunity. The national helpline may also help to mitigate any negative impacts, and advance equality of opportunity, providing support for disabled people who may be at risk and don’t have community support available, as well as those who cannot get online. It may also have a positive effect in fostering good relations between people, as helpline staff may have the opportunity to understand more about the difficulties faced by disabled people.
Translating the guidance into Easy Read is designed to eliminate discrimination, but is also designed to promote equality of opportunity and to foster good relations between people by ensuring access to information for people who have a distinct communication need and those who do not.